The Garden Bird Health Initiative
Established as a UFAW Working Group in 2003, the GBHi set out to:
- Develop and publish guidelines about how to best feed garden birds in order to maximize the benefits for their welfare and conservation;
- Undertake a major garden bird health surveillance and research project.
New strain of bird virus sweeps across Britain
A new strain of avian pox is taking its toll on garden birds in Britain, reports new research published in PLOS ONE. Scientists from the Zoological Society of London, University of Oxford, the British Trust for Ornithology and RSPB report on the emergence of avian pox in great tits, the rapid spread of this disease across the country and its likely impact on great tit populations.
(Photo courtesy of David Wragg)
Lawson, B., Lachish S., Colvile, K.M., Durrant, C., Peck, K.M., Toms, M.P., Sheldon, B.C., Cunningham, A.A. Emergence of a novel avian pox disease in British tit species. PLOS ONE Download this publication
Lachish, S., Lawson, B., Cunningham, A.A., Sheldon, B.C. Epidemiology of the emergent disease Paridae pox in an intensively studied wild bird population. PLOS ONE. Download this publication
Lachish, S., Bonsall, M.B., Lawson, B., Cunningham, A.A., Sheldon, B.C. Individual and population-level impacts of an emerging poxvirus disease in a wild population of great tits. PLOS ONE. Download this publication
To report possible avian pox cases in garden birds (and see below) – Download the GBHi disease questionnaire
Further information on the surveillance and research project
Disease outbreaks occur quite commonly in garden birds and the research, started in March 2005, is aimed at investigating their causes and prevention. This project is being coordinated by the Institute of Zoology, and also involves the collaboration of the Scottish Agricultural College, Liverpool University, the Wildlife Veterinary Investigation Centre, the British Trust for Ornithology, the RSPB and UFAW, in collaboration with multiple other organisations.
Garden birds, particularly finch species and house sparrows, are susceptible to a variety of conditions including infection with Salmonella bacteria or the Trichomonas parasite. Clinical signs (symptoms) can be very similar for different diseases and post mortem examination is required to confirm the cause of any garden bird mortality.
The GBHi recommends following sensible hygiene precautions as a routine measure when feeding garden birds and handling bird feeders and tables. Specific advice on disease control is available in the GBHi Factsheets (below).
Reporting sick or dead garden birds
If you find sick (eg: lethargy, fluffed-up plumage, inability to fly) and dead garden birds, please help us monitor the spread and intensity of disease outbreaks by reporting your observation to the Garden Bird Health initiative Tel: 0207 449 6685 (Institute of Zoology, Monday – Friday 09.00 -17.00 hrs). Alternatively you can complete the questionnaire below, and send it back to UFAW at the email address specified.
You can help keep garden birds healthy
Find out about best practice feeding with the GBHi leaflet
Download a free copy of the GBHi leaflet on feeding garden birds here
A 32-page booklet ‘Feeding Garden Birds: Best practice guidelines’ is now available, price £4.99 each. With colour photos throughout, the booklet reviews food types and feeding practices, discusses food quantity and quality, the siting and design of feeders, and outlines some common diseases and how to minimise the risks of their occurrence. You can order a copy here
Feeding Garden Birds:
Best Practice Guidelines
32-page full colour booklet
how best to feed garden birds to maximize their welfare and conservation. £4.99 each.
The GBHi has been generously sponsored by:
- Birdcare Standards Association
- British Veterinary Association Animal Welfare Foundation
- British Trust for Ornithology
- CJ Wildbird Foods Ltd
- Cranswick Pet Products
- Gardman Ltd
- RCVS Trust
- Tom Chambers Ltd
- The John and Pamela Salter Trust
Thanks to generous sponsorship we have been able to perform surveillance and research into garden bird health since 2005. Since 2011, available funding for the GBHi has been reduced and the systematic surveillance work has had to cease. The GBHi network of collaborating organisations remains in place and the Institute of Zoology receives funding from Defra to participate in the GB Wildlife Disease Surveillance Partnership and undertake disease surveillance of British garden birds.
We continue to seek support to enable us to continue this important work. The necessary investigations and diagnostic tests are expensive (over £100 per bird examined). If you would like to make a donation, this would be most gratefully received – please click here.
Wild bird care in the garden - A scientific look at large scale, do-it-yourself, wildlife management
This UFAW International Animal Welfare Symsposium was held at the Zoological Society of London, London, UK, on 4th May 2010. For further details click here to go to the Symposium webpage.
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